Sony gets emotional with lion cub AIBO robot

This electronic pet will recognise speech and show more feelings, but can Sony cope with the demand?

Robots got more personal and interactive Thursday as Sony released the specifications for its latest electronic pet. The second-generation AIBO, which is also known as the ERS-210, looks like a lion cub and will be available in gold, silver or black. It has more sensors and LEDs than its popular dog-like predecessor and greater freedom of movement for its head, ears and limbs. See a picture of Sony's
new virtual pet, the ERS-210
Sony has added features requested by owners of the original AIBO. The ERS-210 will recognise some simple words and can be programmed to respond to its own name. A digital camera has been inserted into its nose, which the pet will use when it hears the words "take a photo". The robotic lion cub has PC Card and Memory Stick slots. When used with the AIBO Life application the pet will act like an autonomous robot, by behaving independently and making its own decisions. Sony claims that new software has improved the robot's ability to learn from its environment and develop its own personality. The new AIBO, which is the Japanese word for Pal, will be sold by mail order from 16 November and will cost £1,000 (inc VAT). Deliveries are scheduled to start in early December. Sony promises there will be no restriction on the number of units available. The original AIBO proved highly popular with consumers, and in a 1999 Internet sale 3,000 AIBOs were sold in 20 minutes. Sony is already having problems meeting the demand for its PlayStation 2 console. See a picture of Sony's new virtual pet, the ERS-210 To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum. Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

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